Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Prepackaged Diet Food....Really?

I have a physician friend who likes to run marathons. In spite of that fact, he has never been particularly 'runner-thin' until recently. Over a period of what seemed only a couple of months, he had become noticeably slimmer, so I asked him about it. He said he and his wife had decided to do one of those prepackaged diet plans. They got a month's worth of food, three meals a day, for $300. I don't know how long they were on the plan but he lost 20 pounds, his wife lost 10. I was impressed. I had always wondered if their particular diet plan actually worked because the company is a major TV advertiser. My friend and his wife are now among the many success stories the plan can claim.

But how was the food, I asked him? He indicated it was just OK. And he said instead of getting an entire meal, you get only the entree which isn't very big, and then you can add things to it, your vegetables, bread, any extras that are OK on the plan. So, apparently in addition to the $300. in prepackaged diet food each month, you still need to add some of your own for it to be satisfying. Hmm.

As health professionals, my friend and his wife are busy people. It's possible they don't cook at home much anyway. And yes, they have lost the weight they wanted. But I can't help but feel they haven't learned very much when it comes to their regular daily diet. Most of these diet plans are based on portion control and calories. So at least my friend has an idea as to what a proper portion looks like sitting on a plate, but once he and his wife are finished with the diet food they won't have a real way to gauge how much their eating unless they know about calories of everyday food. These diet plans do work, but once participants go off the diet, they often easily put back on the weight and then some. The victory is temporary making the feeling of defeat that much greater. The quicker the weight loss, the quicker it can come back on. Slow and steady works best in my book. And for flavor? Well, I'll take smaller portions of real food I fix and know the calorie count of, any day, over something packaged and shelf-stable. And my method doesn't cost any extra.

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